Demand has increased tenfold during the pandemic as thousands more have taken up the lifelong learning opportunities offered by the Oxford-based company.
The brainchild of blue-chip tech entrepreneur and fundraiser Elspeth Briscoe, after seven years, LwE now has clients in 78 countries.
Through its platform, digital innovation and human interaction are indelibly linked, eliminating the crushing isolation of distance education.
Single lessons (from £45) combining broadcast-quality recorded lessons, personal commentary and trusted chat rooms, create close-knit group communities of up to 20 people.
For them, there is the opportunity to improve, retrain or explore something new – just for fun.
While dropping out is a common feature of standard massive open online courses (MOOCs), LwE has “an unmatched 80% completion rate,” says Briscoe.
“We do not use algorithms and our rates are very competitive compared to other private educational institutions.
“Clients range in age from 18 to 90, they learn in groups, transcending geography. But they also have the same social experience as being together in an actual room. The live broadcast we are introducing this year will improve this.
Current categories reflect today’s lifestyles and lifelong learning interests. They range from food and drink, gardening, wellness and floristry to photography, antiques, art and design.
Famous tutors, aka “teachers,” such as renowned chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Michel Roux Jr and gardener Chris Beardshaw, bring both credibility and dazzle.
More recently, after a growing demand for design knowledge, iconic luxury interiors brand Designers Guild and its founder Tricia Guild have partnered with LwE and launched a new training course.
Commercial partnerships using LwE’s breakthrough technology and content are also flourishing in areas such as healthcare and teacher training with institutions such as the Royal Horticultural Society and the University of Buckingham.
Boots is also part of the mix with LwE hosting a course for its No7 beauty brand influencers to boost their authority when talking about skincare.
NHS collaborations include a post-Covid wellbeing social care trial course and others focused on huge contemporary health challenges such as obesity and diabetes.
LwE has 50,000 consumer customers and, after a £4m investment, expects to break even this year and then generate £10m in revenue by 2025.
Now on track to build a team of 40, Briscoe is planning an acquisition or IPO in the next few years. More immediately in 2022, it aims to raise over an additional £4m to advance technology and bring new high net worth backers with specific industry experience on board.
Recent investors include digital luminary and former Unicef UK vice-president Justin Cooke who joins financial heavyweights such as former Bank of England Deputy Governor Rupert Pennant-Rea and the Professor Alastair Nicholson of Oxford University’s Said Business School.
“Education is the most powerful tool for changing the world,” says Cooke. “Learning has now entered the consumer mainstream. It’s how we spend our time alongside traditional hobbies and for the first time technology is allowing us to learn with the best.
“People understand that learning is a catalyst for developing new skills, getting pay rises and building businesses. We are democratizing access to experts.”
Citing recent research that suggests 100 million people in the UK and US say they are willing to pay for an online course, Briscoe has India in his sights. “He also has enormous potential. Knowledge and education are really valued here,” she says.
Closer to home, she envisions LwE’s technology will also enrich the lives of people living in nursing homes. “Bringing together residents from different houses who share common interests, like classical music or a love of a particular composer,” she explains.
“We could connect them wherever they are. We make community learning fun. The magic happens when different cultures interact.